As a genre, suspense and mystery films have been in a bit of a rut — and for a while now. Despite this, mystery/suspense must be the underlying theme for this Sunday’s 91st annual Academy Awards (8 p.m. on ABC).
What a change from last year, when it was exceptionally easy to predict the winners. Indeed, there were few surprises, and the ceremony ended up being one of the most predictable in recent memory (and also the lowest-rated Oscar telecast in history).
But it’s been a while since there’s been this much uncertainty about what or who will win some of the major awards.
Part of the reason is that there’s been notable divergence between the other awards shows, many of which used to be pretty good predictors for the Oscars.
That’s not to say there aren’t any foregone conclusions. We know without a doubt who will win Best Supporting Actor and Best Director. But with almost all the categories, the probabilities that mouths will fall to the floor are great.
What’s also interesting is that, for the first time in a long time, these are mostly palatable nominations. There’s really not a head-scratcher among the bunch. There are a couple of people who were left off (it would have been great to see “Can You Ever Forgive Me?” or maybe even “Widows” among the Best Picture nominees, and Viola Davis for Best Actress for the latter), but I can’t really begrudge anyone here.
Even more interesting, for the first time since “Reel to Real” began in 2014, pretty much all the movies nominated for Best Picture appeared in local theaters in The Bahamas. It’s only “pretty much” because “Roma” is a Netflix movie and wasn’t released in theaters here, but is available to anyone with access to a Netflix account, and “Vice” actually opens today for the first time at The Island House.
But in some years, not even half these nominees would have been here. Credit the fact that we’ve got a lot more screens and more theaters now than ever before. Hopefully that will mean an even wider variety in the film offerings here in the future.
As has become an annual tradition, I will pick my personal favorites or what/who should win in each of the major categories, and also what/who I believe is most likely to win, taking into account the politics of the Academy and the psyche of the Academy voters. Many times, these actually all align.
I’ll start with Best Picture, which unlike in most years, is one of the most unpredictable categories, and continue with the other most unpredictable categories (Lead Actor, Supporting Actress), and then to the sure bets (Best Director and Supporting Actor).
I’m not even going to try to predict the technical categories. And even the writing categories could go in any direction.
For your information, up for Writing (Adapted Screenplay) are“The Ballad of Buster Scruggs”, “BlacKkKlansman”, “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”, “If Beale Street Could Talk” and “A Star is Born”.
And nominated for Writing (Original Screenplay) are“The Favourite”, “First Reformed”, “Green Book”, “Roma” and “Vice”.
“The Favourite” and “Roma” received the most nominations – 10 apiece, followed by eight each for “A Star Is Born” and “Vice”, seven for “Black Panther”, six for “BlacKkKlansman” and five each for “Bohemian Rhapsody” and “Green Book”.
Next week, we’ll see just how well I did with my picks. You can email me your predictions at [email protected]
I’ve also compiled a list of my picks for the best movies of 2018, the worst movies I saw and some very disappointing movies.
“A Star Is Born”
It’s been a long time since it was this unclear which film would win the award for Best Picture.
In fact, it would be much easier to say which film definitely will not win.
One of those is “The Favourite”. That’s not because it isn’t exceptionally entertaining. It is truly one of the best of the year. But best picture? No!
“Vice” is also a long shot. It’s probably just a little too political and caustic and dark.
“BlacKkKlansman” and “A Star Is Born” are two great films that will forever change the perceptions and career trajectories of their principal cast members and their directors (Spike Lee and Bradley Cooper, respectively). But the big prize will likely be elusive.
So, this all comes down to the four remaining films. And honestly, any one of these could be named Best Picture on Sunday night (hopefully before midnight).
“Bohemian Rhapsody” is a delight and an emotional rollercoaster. It is laugh-out-loud funny, but also deeply touching. Check your DNA ancestry to see if there were monsters in your family tree if the final 15 minutes don’t lead you to an emotional experience.
The laughs may not be as loud and the tears may not flow as freely with “Green Book”, but they are certainly there, along with two of the strongest performances of the year.
“Roma” has been getting lots of attention at award shows, and is a critical darling. As it should be – it is a stunning black-and-white art piece, with a simple, but surprisingly engrossing story.
Will the fact that it is certain to win Best Foreign Language picture and Best Director for Alfonso Cuaron be enough to keep it from taking the top prize?
“Roma” won the Critics’ Choice for Best Picture. Since 2008, only three times has the winner of this award not gone on to win Best Picture at the Oscars. However, never before has a foreign language film won Best Picture.
And then there was “Black Panther”, the highest grossing film in the U.S. last year, and the second-highest grossing in the world. It has elevated the art of action movies and raised standards and expectations for comic book-based superhero films.
Its inclusion here helps to make people feel the Oscars are actually relevant to them, and not just for arthouse flicks and pictures only critics could love. For many, they can’t recall the last time a movie they actually watched and liked won this award.
A win would be an even bigger boost for the Academy, which is working hard to shed the image that it’s out-of-touch with the movie going masses.
Most of the awards shows have bypassed “Black Panther”, though. The exception being its Screen Actors Guild (SAG) win for “Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture” (their Best Picture equivalent).
But this is really the toughest category to predict.
The momentum behind “Bohemian Rhapsody” seems to be growing. The critics love “Roma”. Many, perhaps even most, in the general public would not be displeased with a “Black Panther” win.
That leaves “Green Book” the winner of the Producers Guild of America Award for Best Theatrical Motion Picture, and the National Board of Review pick for Best Film of 2018.
It would seem like the type of film that would be the “traditional” pick for Oscar’s Best Picture. It tackles some of the toughest, most controversial issues today – racism and homophobia – in a based-on-a-true-story tale demonstrating that even the most difficult and set-in-their-ways individuals are capable of change and great humanity.
Coupled with its two strong lead performances, I suspect the inspiring overall message will resonate with Oscar voters. And I do personally believe it was the best picture of the year.
Will it win? It remains a mystery, for now!
My personal favorite: “Green Book”
What will win: “Green Book”
Actor in a Leading Role
Christian Bale (“Vice”)
Bradley Cooper (“A Star Is Born”)
Willem Dafoe (“At Eternity’s Gate”)
Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
Viggo Mortensen (“Green Book”)
Viggo Mortensen might be the most underrated of all the many underrated actors in the business. He is so good in “Green Book”, but once again, he will be overlooked this year.
Willem Dafoe is also highly underrated, and does a decent job as the legendary artist Vincent Van Gogh in “At Eternity’s Gate”. The film, however, is plodding and often ponderous. And forgettable.
Bradley Cooper is also good, and acts, sings, co-writes, directs (and probably caters the food for the crew) in “A Star Is Born”. The future has never looked brighter for this popular star, but that’s the future.
For now, this award really comes down to Christian Bale as U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney and Rami Malek as Queen front-man Freddie Mercury.
These two have split the wins with the major award shows. They both won at the Golden Globes, with Malek winning in the drama category, and Bale winning in the musical/comedy category (although “Bohemian Rhapsody” should have been in musical/comedy category, and “Vice” could have been in drama, but anyway).
Malek won at the British Academy Awards (BAFTAs) and SAG, and Bale won at the Critics’ Choice Awards.
I really don’t know what’s going to happen here. No clue! If I had to guess, perhaps as Bale has won previously, Malek might have a slight edge.
My personal favorite: Christian Bale (“Vice”)
Who will win: Rami Malek (“Bohemian Rhapsody”)
Best Actress in a Supporting Role
Amy Adams (“Vice”)
Marina de Tavira (“Roma”)
Regina King (“If Beale Street Could Talk”)
Emma Stone (“The Favourite”)
Rachel Weisz (“The Favourite”)
No losers here!
Quite a lot of people think this is Regina King’s award. With wins in this category already at the Critics’ Choice and Golden Globe Awards, King delivers a solid performance in the slightly over-hyped “If Beale Street Could Talk”.
And with three Emmy wins in four straight nominations (two back-to-back wins in three noms between 2015 and 2018 for the exceptional, highly underrated but barely watched ABC anthology series “American Crime”, and a win just last year for Netflix’s “Seven Seconds”), King has mastered the put-upon mom trying to protect a son who’s got into a bit of trouble and gone astray.
She’s playing a similar role in “Beale Street”. And so, if Academy voters are familiar with her stellar TV work, this may feel like more of the same.
Another mom dealing with a lot is Marina de Tavira in “Roma”. Her inclusion here was a pleasant surprise, as hers was arguably the strongest performance in the whole movie.
On the other hand, Amy Adams is in great range as Lynne Cheney in “Vice”. She has now racked up six Supporting Actress nominations since 2005, and no wins yet.
I think this could finally be Adams’ year.
If it were up to me though, I would award a tie to the two actresses from “The Favourite”. Like Tom and Jerry or “Spy vs. Spy” from “Mad” magazine/“MADtv”, Emma Stone and Rachel Weisz are a joy to watch, as they constantly go at each other’s throats with witty banter and side glances.
This is collectively one amazing performance, and they shouldn’t be separated. British actress Weisz won at the BAFTAs a couple weeks ago, but she and Stone are an incredible team.
Ties are not unheard of at the Oscars. They are certainly rare, but six have happened in these 90 previous years – but only twice in the acting categories
In 1932 for Best Actor, and most famously in 1969 for Best Actress when a young Barbra Streisand with her first nomination won and tied with the legendary Katharine Hepburn, who was on her 11th nomination, winning her third (and second consecutive) Best Actress award.
It seems unlikely it will happen this year, but one can only wish!
My personal favorite: Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone (“The Favourite”)
Who will win: Amy Adams (“Vice”)
Best Actress in a Leading Role
Yalitza Aparicio (“Roma”)
Glenn Close (“The Wife”)
Olivia Colman (“The Favourite”)
Lady Gaga (“A Star is Born”)
Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
The seventh time’s the charm.
This has got to be Glenn Close’s year. Right?
She’s been nominated seven times now, and nada! How can that be for one of Hollywood’s most accomplished actresses.
Going back to 1982, she’s had three nominations for Supporting Actress, and four now for Best Actress, but no Oscar – only Emmys and Golden Globes and SAGs.
Oliva Colman is her closest competition, and Lady Gaga is also in the running (Gaga and Close actually tied for the win at the Critics’ Choice Awards – the first time there’s ever been a tie in its 24-year history).
I personally loved Melissa McCarthy’s performance the most of these nominations, but Close conducts a masterclass in acting here. Even with just her eyes and facial expressions, she is an Oscar winner in “The Wife”.
My personal favorite: Melissa McCarthy (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Who will win: Glenn Close (“The Wife”)
Best Actor in a Supporting Role
Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)
Adam Driver (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Sam Elliott (“A Star Is Born”)
Richard E. Grant (“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”)
Sam Rockwell (“Vice”)
Just name this the Ali Award.
In any other year, Richard E. Grant would probably be giving his acceptance speech on Sunday.
But Mahershala Ali delivers arguably the best performance in any category this year in “Green Book”, and there is no doubt he will win his second Oscar in three years in this category, following his win for “Moonlight” two years ago.
My Personal Favorite: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)
Who Will Win: Mahershala Ali (“Green Book”)
Spike Lee (“BlacKkKlansman”)
Pawel Pawlikowski (“Cold War”)
Yorgos Lanthimos (“The Favourite”)
Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Adam McKay (“Vice”)
Alfonso Cuaron will win for the stunningly beautiful “Roma” – no ifs, ands or buts!
My personal favorite: Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Who will win: Alfonso Cuaron (“Roma”)
Animated Feature Film
“Isle of Dogs”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
I loved “Ralph Breaks the Internet”, but there is still one film here that transcends its genre.
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” was the second-best comic book-based superhero movie of the year behind only “Black Panther”, and made “Aquaman” look like it was written by sleepy preteens.
It is one of the freshest, wittiest and most imaginative pictures of the year, and has been winning every award imaginable.
If you have yet to see it, make sure you do. And save those silly “I don’t watch animated movies” excuses!
My personal favorite: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
Who will win: “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
16 best movies of 2018:
“Can You Ever Forgive Me?”
“A Star is Born”
“Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse”
“Ralph Breaks the Internet”
“A Quiet Place”
“Mission: Impossible – Fallout”
The worst movies I saw in 2018:
1. “Happy Time Murder”
2. “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom”
3. “Fifty Shades Freed”
4. “Nobody’s Fool”
5. “The Crimes of Grindelwald”
There were probably many just as bad and perhaps even worse; I just refused to watch those!
Really disappointing movies:
“Mary Poppins Returns”
“A Wrinkle in Time”
• Dwight Strachan is the host/producer of “Morning Blend” on Guardian Radio and station manager. He is a television producer and writer, and an avid TV history and film buff. Email [email protected] and follow him on twitter @morningblend969.